KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 27-Jan-14 22:41:49

Benefits Street: "A squandered opportunity to understand welfare dependency"

Channel 4's Benefits Street, about life in a Birmingham street where 90% of residents receive welfare payments, has been criticised for being 'poverty porn', and for demonising those who claim benefits.

In this guest post, Mumsnet blogger Head In Book says the series missed an important opportunity to explore the real cause of welfare dependency. Read her post, and let us know what you think.

Head in Book

Mumsnet Blogger

Posted on: Mon 27-Jan-14 22:41:49

(57 comments )

Lead photo

Benefits Street: promoting an anti-welfare rhetoric?

I didn't see the first episode of Benefits Street. I was doing my own take on Dry January: no Twitter, no TV. A sort of sabbatical for the perpetually bleeding-of-heart.
 
I read about the second episode on Facebook. The programme's impact had been strong enough to interrupt the usual hum of domestic whingery and inspirational sunsets, bringing with it an unmistakeable hint of pitchfork, and an abrupt end to the sabbatical. Lucky me that I could take one at all.
 
Some have criticised it as "poverty porn". Others have suggested that it has played an important role in raising the issue of an underclass often ignored or worse. For me, the series - which ended tonight - has raised more questions than answers.
 
Perhaps my main question is: why the title? With 10 times as many people receiving age-related payments as do unemployment benefit, a more representative (if incendiary) "Benefits Street" would have been a corridor in a retirement home. There are suggestions that the title was changed at the last minute, and that the participants were misled about the editorial approach. Whatever the truth, the title raised my hackles less than this squandered opportunity of a programme eventually did.
 
Far from the reported threats of arson and the deluge of Twitter hate, my overwhelming reaction was sadness. True to its genre, there was the predictable drinking, drugs and fighting -  and the stock characters, like the picaresque Danny and Fungi, whose "Shoplifting for Dummies" segment landed them in (predictable) trouble.
 
Less typically, we were shown warmth, friendship, kindness and mutual support, together with a quiet dignity in fairly hellish conditions.  Behind all this, though, were undeniably thwarted and damaged lives. The series felt like a missed opportunity to explore and explain, rather than to gawk at - and naturally judge - a snapshot. I found myself repeatedly wanting the narrator to ask why, how, when, what - not just to portray the situation as simply a given.

By framing the debate in the poisoned context of benefits, Channel 4 lost a rare chance to look more deeply at the scale, cause and effect of benefit dependency. They lost, too, an important chance to persuade to people to lower the pitchforks.

 
The series’ subtitle was "the reality of life on benefits", but it was more accurately the reality of poverty, deprivation, addiction and the aftermath of the care system and prison. Perhaps the producers didn’t intend it, but given the current race to the bottom on welfare cuts, there's an unavoidable complicity with a rhetoric which stigmatises and demonises as 'other' those who are already among the most vulnerable in society. It feeds into a prevailing narrative that the welfare state and its beneficiaries (over half of us, remember) are stitching us up, and permits, unquestioningly, claims from Iain Duncan Smith and fellow ministers that their changes are both essential and fundamentally constructive.
 
There are other quibbles. I don't fully understand the labyrinthine benefits system in this country, and I bet most other people don’t either. Rather than straying dangerously close to the stereotypes of the feckless and fraudulent, Benefits Street could have given viewers context: far more is paid to workers on low incomes than to those who don’t work, supporting low-paying employers; housing benefit goes to landlords, not tenants. Figures for benefit fraud are much lower than the public believes them to be.  Even Mark and Becky, sanctioned for over-claiming housing benefit, came across more as kids who'd naively taken half-assed advantage of a complex system than master criminals who’d set out to defraud it.
 
There were nods to the fact that some residents were working, but we never met them, reinforcing the idea that the benefits budget is blown on the work-shy. Jobs didn't seem to be there for the picking, either: the only two opportunities which we saw were the unappealing (and unrewarding) options of sex work and a 100% commission-based sales position.
 
So, was Channel 4 wrong to make the series? Giving people in difficult circumstances a platform and a voice surely falls within their remit, as does asking the hard questions about what could or should change. There was a moving scene in Episode 3 where Mark and Becky were visibly transformed when helped to gain the skills, confidence and impetus to become more assertive in their parenting, and the simple dignity and structure which the (ultimately doomed) promise of a job offered their family.
 
No-one could argue that the status quo for many of those shown is ideal, but by framing the debate in the poisoned context of benefits, Channel 4 lost a rare chance to look more deeply at the scale, cause and effect of benefit dependency. They lost, too, an important chance to persuade to people to lower the pitchforks. It doesn't matter how sensitively you retell a fairy story, if it still leaves your audience afraid of the big bad wolf.

By Head in Book

Twitter: @headinbook

annieorangutan Tue 28-Jan-14 07:42:18

I think its good. I really like Mark and Becky, especially Mark. He tries his best and I think the third episode portrayed them a good light as they are trying hard and trying to overcome their problems. Even Fungi who cant get it together shows his struggles with the dependency and not being able to see his kids and shows he wishes for a different life. I dont think it shows bad people at all. If this show was propaganda then it hasnt worked as everyone I have spoken to about it is talking about it positively about it, and feeling empathy rather than anger.

fusspot66 Tue 28-Jan-14 08:26:28

Catherine, you nailed it. How are some of those injured souls on Benefits St and every similar street through the country going to leap up, don smart clothes and work 5 days a week in non existent jobs. Thank you.

Mandy2003 Tue 28-Jan-14 08:26:49

Good OP. A fundamental problem that claimants face, though, is that housing benefit DOES get paid to them not the landlord. It is really hard to get it paid to a landlord in fact. There is some long lost ideological reason for this but bearing in mind its paid into a bank account it only needs a wrongly timed DD for things to begin to slide.

Piscivorus Tue 28-Jan-14 08:40:21

I don't think any of the people on it come across as being bad people, just damaged and in need of help and education.

The big question though is whether the current benefit system is providing the help and education they need or condemning them to a miserable, grinding life of bumping along the bottom.

I don't know what the solution is. When times are hard people look for others to blame and look down on, non-working benefits claimants are seen as the undeserving poor and are an easy target. We need to find ways to make these people feel valuable to society and take responsibility for their own futures but how, when there are so few jobs for them?

Custardo Tue 28-Jan-14 08:46:26

I watched part of the first episode but I refuse to watch anymore and give C4 my consent that this is ok.

people watching this are tacitly giving their consent that this is ok even if they do not think it is.

what I did think of the part I watched was the fabulous sense of community, people helping each other, enterprise. I think this would be an excellent aspect to explore.

the motivation behind this programming is sickening, jumping on the IDS/Daily Mail propaganda train which is changing the culture of how people see those who claim benefits.

the programme makers lied to the participants, they have caused them to receive death threats and c4 paid to move them because of this. Death threats!

this is the hate and vitriol Britain we live in

where are channel 4 when it comes to exploring the 65billion lost through the rich using tax loopholes or not paying tax at all?

zizzo Tue 28-Jan-14 09:15:23

The last couple of episodes have shown a much more balanced view of the lives of these people stuck within the benefits system.

Some of the former denouncers of the people shown in the show have actually turned around and expressed sympathy for them now.

I would like to think that C4 are being clever and whipping up outrage from the first few episodes and are now trying to change popular public opinion, but I'm dubious about whether they are that deliberately manipulative in that way. It would be cool if they were - it would show all the baying mob just how much they overreact against people who are dependent on benefits, and how biased they are against them.

Owllady Tue 28-Jan-14 10:13:25

One of the houses is owned by a Tory mp, riddled with damp and the family (or housing benefit) are paying £215 pw for the privilege

Two hundred and fifteen pounds a week
Fir a falling down house in Winston green shock

The level of the housing was awful. As a private renter who pays less in a nice area, I am really shocked. Is nobody else shocked by this? Those houses are nit worth a grand a month

Owllady Tue 28-Jan-14 10:15:26

No judgement of the people living in them btw. But I think it highlighted more issues than what it concentrated on. Fungi living conditions were dreadful. I am not sure how anyone can think that is ok

SanctiMoanyArse Tue 28-Jan-14 11:05:50

I understand the benefits system well because of what I do for voluntary / used to do for work, it is flawed but the new changes will only make it more so. Needing reform does not equate to needing this specific set of reforms!

I have so much sympathy for people trapped in the system, especially now when jobs are ahrd to find; and outside London they are- I've applied for lots recently and not had a single interview or even thank you response, I'm educated to post grad level and able to apply for a much wider range than the 'typical' families this sort of thing features.

I understand why HB is often paid to resident- we had a scenario before where a tenant could be out of work from just a few weeks but their lease specified no DSS (as was known then) so they were out on their ear even when they had work. there should be options, though- UC vlanket bans payments to landlords which is a crying shame for vulnerable people, and more also presumably would aid any dodgier landlords in hiding income? (I know most aren't dodgy, we rented our former home out in years gone by).

I worry about monthly payments of all benefits as well: apart from that initial month with nothing coming in (oh yes there will be), the most vulnerable people of all won't be used to budgetary management at that level. It sets people up to fail.

At a wider level the system doesn't help people return to work, a friend had to give up her son as she could not always feed him as her job was zero hours and it would take benefits three months to pay a claim (made new every time) when she wasn't allocated any hours, sadly her exP is abroad so she doesn't see her son most years now. Although I apply for anything local, as we don't get income support and so no back to work help (Dh earns very little, I am on carers), I can only apply for localish work as otherwise simply could not afford petrol / tolls for that first month where Carers withdrawn and no pay. We have a car for disability reasons / DHs self employment but often it stands idle and with no petrol now anyway (dearth of public transport locally)

FourHorseShoesoftheApocalypse Tue 28-Jan-14 11:42:43

I applaud you Catherine, a really thoughtful response to ch 4 s awfully titled programme, it was indeed a missed opportunity.

rootypig Tue 28-Jan-14 11:57:06

Excellent column and response from sancti. The programmes fail to apply any interesting or creative analysis, as they would for other groups - a reflection of the lack of seriousness with which the working and non working underclass in this country is treated. I count myself among them!

Only caught the very end of it last night, but completely agree with your blog and fusspots post, surely we need to look more at the reasons behind situations, which are often very challenging?

rootypig Tue 28-Jan-14 13:09:10

Catherine or anyone - any good links to benefits analysis in terms of low income vs not working, and age related? Have looked at govt figures but lots is lumped in together, I can't make it out.

DandelionGilver Tue 28-Jan-14 13:11:04

I have only watched one episode. The one last week, and initially only under duress from my partner. I will openly admit that we both thought it would be about "benefit scroungers, living a life of reilly on our taxes" and were prepared to have all of our prejudices justified.

It didn't take long to change my mind. In fact, I found it upsetting and felt a huge amount sympathy and sorrow for these families who live in poverty and appalling conditions, through their own unfortunate. unwarranted and undeserved circumstances.

The young couple with the 2 small boys was unbearably sad. The young girl had conquered her drug addiction and they both seem to be doing the best they can without much support. The health visitor suggesting parenting classes and telling them they have to go online to find one and sort it out, without checking they had the ability to do so. Their upbringing showing in the way that they live. Seemingly being unable to cook healthy, nutritious food for the family and living in such a mess. When with a small amount of assistance and education they could improve the quality of their lives immeasurably. Their trials to encourage good behaviour in their children and to get them to go to sleep was heartbreaking, but they both seemed to be doing the best they could. And the poor chap going door to door trying to get charitable donations, and obviously with no training at all, hearing his sales pitch. And all for the grand sum of nothing.

Whilst we are not rich, we are fairly comfortable and this huge percentage of our society has gone unnoticed by us in our safe, comfortable and happy little bubble, which I believe is how a lot of our peers think. Or, rather, we just don't think about it.

We live in a town which is hugely affluent and I was surprised to learn just before Christmas that we have a food bank. That even in areas of affluence there are people who cannot afford to eat. I now donate a couple of carrier bags full of food every week - it is not enough. I also give all of my DDs outgrown clothes, shoes and toys to a social worker I know as she says they never have enough. But, what else can I do?

I would love to be able to help somehow, but don't know how to even start or who to approach (the foodbank do not require any more volunteers). How DO you help these families?

I feel chastened for my previous prejudices and have had my eyes opened.

Karenj1 Tue 28-Jan-14 13:42:53

Rent is not paid to the landlord anymore...only in certain circumstances where the tenant is deemed vulnerable.

That is why some of the people in this documentary had got into such arrears. They were given money for their rent and spent it on other things...they may have had very difficult decisions to make.

The state of many houses shown was indeed deplorable, if the rents quoted above are true I would be surprised, as there is a maximum that the council will pay in benefit on any given property based on number of rooms etc.

People in private rented housing may well be there because their past behaviour has rendered them ineligible for council housing. Landlords are not always ogres, they can only deal with what they know about and tenants may not tell them of problems until things deteriorate to the point where they are unbearable for them and expensive for the landlord.

Remember tidying costs no cash. Cleaning products are cheaper than cigarettes. Storing things in your bath makes it unusable.

Landlords have horror tales to tell too!

Karenj1 Tue 28-Jan-14 13:47:04

There will be a Sure Start scheme close to you, they sometimes need mentors to go into a home and help with advice about parenting etc, good luck with it

Owllady Tue 28-Jan-14 13:50:38

I am not surprised landlords have tales to tell either but as private renters we are subject to spot checks whenever deemed necessary ( which thankfully have never happened) and routine rental checks every six months or more frequent if necessary. Mould on the walls to the extent that were in the property that belonged to the mp would gave accumulated over a much longer period. I just don't know how with a responsible agreement how housing can be allowed to get in such a condition. I am even subjected to an oven door check! To make sure it's see through glass (which seems frightening impossible to achieve)
The conditions in which some of them, especially fungi, were appalling, squat like conditions.

Owllady Tue 28-Jan-14 13:56:22
DandelionGilver Tue 28-Jan-14 13:58:38

Thanks Karenj1. I'll look into it. Why didn't I think of them? We used our local centre a lot when DD was small.

LayMizzRarb Tue 28-Jan-14 14:32:43

I realise that the programme is heavily edited, but some of the basic facts still shine through. For the chap who went to get a handout from the foodbank, then you must make compromises. Give up your mobile phones and cigarettes and you will have a bit more money to feed your kids. Although unemployment and low income is beyond your control, how you manage your finances is not. You have to help yourself. As for Funghi, instead of spending money on cans of special brew, buy a bucket and a bottle of detergent and get cleaning your house. It will stand you in much better stead when you next apply for access to your children.

bebbeau Tue 28-Jan-14 14:47:26

I watched it last night and fungi's house made me cry

how can a human be allowed to live in such a state sad

Preciousbane Tue 28-Jan-14 16:00:53

Fungi has serious issues from his past, he alluded to them very briefly in episode 1. That he was messed about with as a kid. I knew exactly what he meant. The poor man will probably always be an addict of some sort and will with all the associated health risks die young.

Some abused children make it, I did but I had a great teacher who took an interest in me and then got a job at just 13 while still at school. It's not all about poverty at all it is about how children are raised. My Mother had some of her dc removed by social services at different times, I used to wish they would take me sometimes but they never did.

misskittycatkins Tue 28-Jan-14 16:09:50

He travelled to the food bank by bus rather than walk (£4.00) and if i'm not mistaken it looked like she got a taxi home with the food.

Owllady Tue 28-Jan-14 17:02:42

It was reported that the production team were buying them booze, fags, McDonald's etc though and I can well believe it. My friend appeared in another popular ch 4 series, and she was told she had to be character x and behave in a certain way and all sorts if stuff

Owllady Tue 28-Jan-14 17:03:50

As if it's that simple that someone with a severe addiction just clean their house!

FloweryFeatureWall Tue 28-Jan-14 17:29:02

I don't think it was a missed opportunity. I think it was a purposely designed piece of propaganda. It was never about representing an accurate view of a wide variety of people on benefits. It was about choosing the most stereotypical representations of people on benefits and using them to incite more rage against people who receive benefits.

ZenasSuitcase Tue 28-Jan-14 19:04:47

Great post. Personally I've not seen the series, but what I do hate is the media's constant demonising of benefit claimants since the LibCon's raise to power.

For me one of the issues here is "where 90% of residents receive welfare payments". Often areas become ghettoised when people of a similar culture, income and background live together. Communities then become unsustainable with the high levels of crime and anti-social behaviour, as well as high levels of evictions often due to rent arrears.

Communities need to be mixed in order to function effectively and create aspirations for people. Communities need working families, older families etc as well as people on low incomes, and this can be influenced by good housing policy at local level. It's not just about the benefits situation.

Zena's Suitcase
@homemumearthmum

NumptyNameChange Tue 28-Jan-14 19:35:57

a careful and balanced OP giving more benefit of the doubt (to the programme producers) than many of us would.

i haven't watched it, i can't bring myself to. i'm so tired of the pitchfork culture and as a teacher i am actually aware that the bar for working nowadays (even in low pay, no benefits, frankly criminal employment) is above what some people for various reasons can reach.

industry is gone to a large extent. jobs where ability to communicate in middle class english, without swearing, without losing your cool, without taking things personally or getting intimidated or intimidating or just not coping - are gone. however the social and family conditions that create citizens unable to deal with that are not gone.

it is so hard it seems for people to understand that to work in a call centre in customer services (which may be the only jobs available in your town for those without degrees for example) require skills that not all people have acquired. until recently there were jobs for those people, jobs that didn't require qualifications, middle class communication styles or the like, now there are not. there are and always have been people in society who are not going to be middle class or have communication and social skills that slot well into middle class environments for numerous reasons that haven't disappeared. going to school in an area where the majority have the same issues doesn't 'retrain' you anymore than going to prison rehabilitates offenders.

maybe it's easiest to slander and demonise people who can't fit in with the fairly recently changed demands of society than it is to face reality.

a lot of these people would have been taken on as a labourer on a building site, a plumbers mate, the teaboy wherever and been socialised into a working culture not beyond their reach by people not too far from their culture who'd be able to take them in hand. there were ways to go out and make your way and earn money in the world as someone who was never going to do well at a dinner party or win records for intelligence and social skills but who could work hard and get on with people in an environment that didn't expect them to jump through hoops they didn't comprehend. those jobs just aren't there.

seems it's easier to point the finger at a class of people who don't fit where we've gone than to point the finger at those who have destroyed the industries and labour market that they could work in.

NumptyNameChange Tue 28-Jan-14 19:44:05

i know this is beyond the understanding of most of us but there really are people who will not be able to talk, dress, behave, cope etc in the ways we want them to for modern jobs. it wasn't always necessary for 'everyone' to be able to do those things. now it increasingly is. the exploitation of education as profit making has really not and bloody helped. a 16yo who could've gone to her mum's mates hairdressing salon, swept up hair, made tea, learned to be polite and make chit chat and gradually learned to cut hair, set a perm etc now is told she has to have gcse maths and english and go to college three days a week create a funding and profit stream for someone in the process.

there are so many hoops, many unnecessary, all designed to make profit for someone, that some people cannot jump through whether you like it or not. most of us massively take for granted the skills we learnt without even knowing we were learning a lesson.

we are failing people. the fact they can't keep up with rapid change and raised expectations (accompanied by lowered recompense from employers ironically) is not the fault of those left behind in my opinion.

NumptyNameChange Tue 28-Jan-14 19:49:07

and it isn't so surprising that in the face of that some people, who can see no way to win, just say 'fuck you then!'. dignity is really important to us. we claw it anyway we can.

GobbySadcase Tue 28-Jan-14 19:57:15

I won't watch it. It perpetuates hatred in the community which will make my life and the lives of my DH and DCs harder.

I'm not ill educated. I'm not feckless or a substance abuser. All I did was have children whose multiple complex needs prevent me from working fir numerous reasons.

People need to realise that every one of us is one catastrophic event away from benefits dependency. When you're trying to deal with everything that living with multiple disabled family members entails then hate from the community can sometimes be too much to bear on top.

GobbySadcase Tue 28-Jan-14 20:01:43

Lay - what do you do when out and about and your child is taken ill in the street and you don't have a mobile phone? I'm talking really ill here - requiring hospitalisation.

Or as I was - coming back from hospital and had a car crash. Had two severely disabled kids in car with me and needed immediate help to keep them safe so needed the phone, and also to get hold of DH as our third and most severely disabled DC was in alternate care provision that morning and I couldn't get to him.

Your comments about helping yourself are simplistic and ignorant.

NumptyNameChange Tue 28-Jan-14 20:16:21

Lay - i wonder if you comprehend how some people can't afford a landline as it is so much more expensive and more of a commitment than a pay as you go simcard in a phone? and i wonder if you comprehend that when you are applying for jobs online sometimes 'phone number' is a required field and you cannot move onto the next page of your application without entering a valid phone number.

or perhaps you can consider that in even of an emergency a school needs to be able to contact a parent and a phone therefore is ESSENTIAL. my mobile isn't working at the minute and if my child got sick at school there is no way to contact me directly - i have to hope they'd have the sense to call the school i work at, leave a message with reception, that reception would be able to get that message to me in class and i'd be able to use my work's phone to call the school.

to be a contactable parent or job applicant you need a phone. a mobile phone is simply cheaper than a landline and gives access to the internet (for job apps for example) more cheaply, and without a monthly charge commitment, than an internet connection at home.

having a phone is not a luxury in today's world but a necessity. trust me the job centre will not take 'i don't have a phone' or 'i'm not online' as a good reason for not being available for work and actively applying. in my town there is no local paper anymore in paper form - they only publish online. and if you had to go to the job centre from here on a bus on a daily basis it would cost about five times as much as keeping a pay as you go sim alive.

do think about what you're saying.

StabInTheDark Tue 28-Jan-14 21:07:12

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

LayMizzRarb Tue 28-Jan-14 21:27:54

The woman with red hair is seen in every episode with her 'smartphone' you can get a clunky oversized mobile for £10, and top it up. You do not need a smartphone to call an ambulance if your child is ill or if you have a car accident. You can get access to the internet at local libraries.

Thanks for your advice, but I don't need to think about what I'm saying. I know people who work and can't afford to smoke or who don't own smartphones. One of my friends, I top up her phone from time to time, anonymously at the cashpoint. They go without to ensure their children have food, and their homes are clean and tidy.

Varya Tue 28-Jan-14 21:29:53

Very sad to see the struggle some have to survive on Benefits Street.
Our privileged rulers have no idea how some people struggle with so many difficulties. Makes harrowing viewing and empathy for the residents comes unbidden.

evilcakegenius Tue 28-Jan-14 21:48:08

I expected this documentary to be the usual benefit bashing that seems to be going on at the moment, but was surprised that they almost showed the reality that living on benefits brings. I was made redundant late last year, my hub works 20 hrs a week, I tried to claim JSA but was told due to not paying enough NI I was ineligible so now have no income. We have three children (two have Autism) and we live in the north east of England. We (thankfully) qualified for housing and council tax benefit, I am ashamed to admit we are on benefits, I am ashamed that my children go to school in second hand uniform and eat a school lunch paid for by the state, I am ashamed that we are struggling to get by and programmes like this do not always paint people on benefits in a positive light.
We do not smoke or drink, and we have no tv (our smallest boy poured juice in it and we've not had the cash to replace it) our only luxury is a 12 yr old car which hub uses to get to work in the middle of nowhere. I apply for jobs on a weekly basis and despite trying to remain positive for the children's sake it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep up the façade.
What we need is the people like us who are trying to claw our way out of our poverty hole to be shown in a more favourable light, Yes there are the people on benefits who milk the system and refuse to work, and I am not on here with my sob story (oh poor me) but those people who judge need to understand we are all trying to do the best job we can with what little we have.

GobbySadcase Tue 28-Jan-14 22:41:51

Stop being a bigot.

GobbySadcase Tue 28-Jan-14 22:44:07

Right, yeah. I should cart 3 disabled kids down the library to order prescriptions and grocery shop online because I'm sometimes unable to get out.

Genius.

Meanwhile whilst we slowly starve to death and go I medicated for serious health issues you get the warm fuzzies because we're not accessing internet at home.

With brilliance like that why don't you become an MP?

FloweryFeatureWall Tue 28-Jan-14 22:44:59

Well, no, they didn't show the reality of what living on benefits brings. They showed the reality of what living on benefits for SOME people brings. I'm on benefits. My house is clean and bright, we eat meals, we don't stay up all night or hang about on the street, we don't invite local druggies and alcoholics in to use our shower etc, we don't buy stolen goods at the door. I didn't see my reality on there at all.

GobbySadcase Tue 28-Jan-14 22:53:15

Bingo, flowery.
They're probably also not up half the night because a child that needs constant care needs them and then going to umpteen school reviews and hospital appointments the following day!

LayMizzRarb Tue 28-Jan-14 23:34:56

I quite agree, there will be families who cannot get to a library, but I was not generalising about people who receive benefits, I was referring to the people whose lives are depicted in the programme. The couple referred to do not have disabled children. They were clever enough to commit benefit fraud, yet not clever enough to realise you cannot afford food for your kids AND cigarettes .

DolomitesDonkey Wed 29-Jan-14 09:08:10

It's a bit of a red herring to refer to benefits as "unemployment benefit" - we all know that if you've got kids it's benefits bingo.

Someone earlier in te thread alluded to simple money-mismanagement and I think this is often at the crux of the matter. But some cannot be helped - you'd all be up in arms if each "problem individual" was given a professional "mummy" to make their financial decisions and give them a weekly cash allowance. Some people just can't be helped - we could give them a grand a week cash and they'd still be living in squalor with empty cupboards. There is no fluffy glittered-unicorn answer.

HoleySocksBatman Wed 29-Jan-14 09:55:49

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Headinbook Wed 29-Jan-14 12:00:01

rootypig not sure if this is the sort of detail you are looking for, but it's quite a comprehensive breakdown http://www.ifs.org.uk/bns/bn13.pdf (p5 especially, sorry, am rubbish at posting links)

Mandy2003 (and others) yes, you're right, sorry I wasn't clear re housing benefit. What I was getting at is that the vast majority of money paid out in HB will ultimately end up going to landlords, not tenants.

Really interesting reading all your responses, thank you.

BBJO1 Wed 29-Jan-14 12:15:09

I would just like to say I am a single parent. I left my children's father due to severe domestic violence, at it's worst he had his hands around my throat till I passed out understandably I had to leave.
I am in receipt of benefits as I am unable to work due to lack of childcare provision. I have relocated to another area of the country from my family and friends on the advice of the refuge I was in, after my ex put the windows through. I do however volunteer at my children's primary school.
We do not have a great deal of money, however my children are well cared for, well behaved and doing well at school.
My home is clean and tidy and I do not drink or smoke. We do things like make cakes, throw all the duvets down and sleep on the living room floor -a fun way of reducing my heating bill. We go on walks, feed the ducks and the local library. I would say we are decent members of society.
I am only writing this so people will gain insight into a selection of people on benefits, we are not all bad. When the children are older I will look for work in the mean time we can manage and are happy.

Pendeen Wed 29-Jan-14 13:55:36

Whether by guile, ignorance or innocence the blogger - and most contributors have completely missed the point.

This is not a documentary, to investigate, educate and illumate.

It is simply entertainment, designed to excite common interest and boost c4's viewing figures.

SanctiMoanyArse Wed 29-Jan-14 14:53:45

'People in private rented housing may well be there because their past behaviour has rendered them ineligible for council housing. ' that's a small proportion, a very small one- most are there because of inability to afford deposits.

SanctiMoanyArse Wed 29-Jan-14 14:58:59

And YYY to phone: indeed our schools insist on parents having them as part of the initial signing up agreement, as beforehand parents simply never came to collect sick kids.

My phone costs me £10 per month, every application for a job I fill in has a section for mobile phone and sometimes they even refuse to save on the system if the box is not filled in. Alongside all the points Gobby raised (also a carer, albeit one looking for work now). Recently I forgot my phone and had a car breakdown, the return charges call was about 2 minutes and billed in at £7.50.

SanctiMoanyArse Wed 29-Jan-14 15:05:10

Also- thread hogger but why not- internet at local libraries? Seriously?

Rural poor, anyone?
Carers/
Library closures? Bus charges to reach them?

Hubby is working, low paid but working- we still get some HB. his business is an online shop / hire company.

Sure the local library would be happy for him to sit there several hours a day on their solitary PC dealing with that!

Ebay as well is a major way people on low incomes get by, buying and selling; many libraries ban ebay. Yet it's a good place to start a business we've found.

GobbySadcase Wed 29-Jan-14 20:21:28

My smartphone cost me nothing - had been with my provider donkeys, and I don't have an expensive contract.

It allows me to share info with DH who is also a carer, schedule hospital appointments and school reviews etc as we are rarely in the same place.

It allows me to receive and respond to emails from NHS and school even if the kids are in hospital. I can order scripts on it, order the groceries etc.

I don't see that as a frivolous luxury. For us they're a much needed tool. Carers uk have even developed an app for the the things carers need.

HoleySocksBatman Wed 29-Jan-14 21:03:47

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

HoleySocksBatman Wed 29-Jan-14 21:42:07

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

NumptyNameChange Thu 30-Jan-14 06:13:23

and it probably now comes free with a pay as a you go package.

HoleySocksBatman Thu 30-Jan-14 12:12:55

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

NumptyNameChange Thu 30-Jan-14 19:24:18

i have a 'smart' phone that i got free with a contract several years ago and is now fuelled by an eight pound a month contract that covers all of my calls and texts and allows me a certain amount of time online that i don't tend to use because i have broadband at home that only costs me eight pound a month. staying with the mobile company for eight pound affords me the discount that makes my broadband so cheap.

so for sixteen pounds a month, let's say three fifty a week, i have all communications paid for and access to educational material for my child and entertainment and social contact for me. a book costs at least five pound, a dvd at least a fiver, a bus ride to the nearest library to use their internet four pound fifty. sounds like a bargain to me given it opens up the whole world to me and my child.

NumptyNameChange Thu 30-Jan-14 19:28:45

i also find that being online saves me a fortune on school uniform and shoes, household goods, work clothes - in fact EVERYTHING as prices are so much cheaper online and not only are the prices in shops higher but i'd have to spend £4.50 to get to them (not to mention they're mostly closed down in my town now and placed on out of town retail estates that require you to own a car to get to them).

incidentally i work but am still fully able to empathise and understand this stuff.

one thing i find bizarre on here is that often the most benefit bashing outraged posters turn out to be sahms who don't work or pay taxes themselves. nothing wrong with being a stay at home mum of course but most bizarre that they are so outraged by others finances given they don't pay tax or go out to work themselves.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now